Abstract

In her poems of the 1960s and 1970s, Muriel Rukeyser developed feminist internationalist alternatives to both masculinist antiwar politics and isolationist currents of women’s liberation. At the same time that the nascent women’s liberation movement appeared to turn inward to a domestic scene of women’s oppression, feminist internationalists politicized personal life by confronting the entanglement of home, family, and the frontlines of a distant war in Vietnam. Key poems from Rukeyser’s 1968 collection The Speed of Darkness were excerpted widely and embraced as authorizing exemplars of a new feminist poetry that aimed to express hidden truths of women’s lives. But considered in the context of the original volume and alongside the writings of other feminist internationalists, these poems evince a different aim: rather than exhuming and conveying intimate experience, Rukeyser renders it permeable. Her poems of the late 1960s conjure an internationalist atmosphere in which to immerse their readers. Rukeyser’s feminist internationalism requires us to more radically reconceive second-wave feminism as an intellectual and cultural terrain always in contact with a range of movements, sites, and subjects, irreducible even in its earliest years to the fractious organizational landscape of women’s liberation.

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